By The Associated Press
OXFORD — Ole Miss’ Murphy Holloway, seeing his team’s postseason hopes in danger, picked the right time to have the most productive offensive outburst of his career.
Holloway scored 20 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and had 14 consecutive second half points Saturday night as Mississippi defeated Auburn 61-54 to enhance the Rebels’ hopes for an NCAA Tournament berth.
“We had to have it. Had to,” said Holloway. “Somebody had to take ownership and that’s what I did. Then, we made the plays at the end.”
Ole Miss erased an 11-point deficit in the final 15 minutes to remain in a four-team, fourth-place logjam in the Southeastern Conference standings
Nick Williams and Jarvis Summers added 13 and 11 points, respectively, for the Rebels (15-9, 5-5), snapping a two-game losing streak. Summers had a steal and layup to highlight a decisive 10-3 outburst in the final two minutes to seal the win.
“I read the play and knew it from the scouting report,” said Summers, putting the Rebels ahead for the final time, 53-51, with 1:56 left. “I just timed it right and once we got in front, I knew we would stay there.”
Auburn (13-12, 3-8) was led by Kenny Gabriel with 15 points. Frankie Sullivan added 10 for the Tigers, who have lost five of their last six and remain winless in six SEC road games.
“Things just didn’t go our way at the end,” Auburn coach Tony Barbee said. “We couldn’t make shots and turned the ball over. In the last 4 minutes, we just couldn’t get things together.”
The Tigers led 31-24 at halftime and 39-28 with 15:16 left on a 3-pointer by Noel Johnson. Ole Miss answered with 12 straight by Holloway to lead 40-39.
The teams swapped the lead three more times, setting up the decisive play by Summers in the final 2 minutes. Auburn managed only one field goal, a 3-pointer shot by Gabriel, in the final 2 minutes as Summers and Williams hit free throws to seal it.
Mississippi coach Andy Kennedy smiled and shrugged his shoulders in the postgame press conference when asked about Holloway and his team’s comeback.
“That’s just us,” he said. “We have trouble dribbling it, passing it and shooting it. Other than that, we have a great group of guys.”
The win enhanced the NCAA Tournament hopes of the Rebels, who remain in a four-team tie with Alabama, Arkansas and Tennessee in the SEC at 5-5. Ole Miss hosts Vanderbilt on Thursday and visits Kentucky on Saturday in a pair of games that should determine the Rebels’ postseason position.
Ole Miss entered the contest with an RPI of 53, which includes road wins over Big East and Big Ten teams, as well as home wins over Atlantic Coast Conference member Miami and No. 18 Mississippi State.
The Rebels rank only behind Kentucky and Vanderbilt in road wins this season.
“They’re huge games,” Holloway said. “Vanderbilt is the biggest game of the year. If we want to get to where we want to go, then we need to have it.”
Auburn finished 21 of 52 (40.4 percent), from the field, including 6 of 17 (35.3 percent), from 3-point range. Ole Miss shot 22 of 49 (44.9 percent), but struggled at the free throw line, hitting 13 of 25 (52 percent), which allowed the Tigers to make it close.
Read more about this game in Sunday’s NEMS Daily Journal newspaper.